December 25, 2010

Why it’s Christmas Day, sir!

I call this: computers,gaming,On the Road Again,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:26 am

Tis Christmas morning. I have an 11AM (my time) video conference scheduled with my parents for the opening of gifts and exchanging of Christmas wishes. As crazy as that sounds, it actually works quite well. This will be our third consecutive year celebrating in this way. There are maybe a half-dozen presents sitting on my couch right now, the remnants of a large package that arrived at the Guthrie earlier in the week. Some of the contents were meant to be shared, like food, and a cute, and rather beautiful ornament with a palm tree and flamingo that my mom sent so we would have something warm to look at during the blizzard. So that stuff has been in the rehearsal room pretty much all week.

There are a few wrapped gifts that I have no idea about, and those are waiting for this morning. One of them is totally a portable pack of tissues. I’m pretty good at telling my mom’s traditional stocking stuffers just by weight and feel, so I try to pick them up very lightly so as not to give it away. But I grabbed the tissues a little too forcefully and spoiled the surprise. I also got one for Thanksgiving/Christmas, which is the other holiday the Parlato clan celebrates on the Acting Company schedule, in which there is a tree, and presents, and family members all see each other face-to-face and have a big dinner together. The only difference is we celebrate it on Thanksgiving because that’s when I’m in town. That’s when the real presents are exchanged.

Last year my big gift was a super-warm coat from Eddie Bauer. It’s still awesome. I have yet to be cold this year. This year I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted until a few days before, when I decided to get something not very exciting, not something I can take on the road, but practical: a 2TB hard drive and enclosure for my desk at home. I was doing a little too much juggling of files between all my hard drives (aside from my Time Machine drive, which is half a terabyte, all the others are either 160 or 320GB) and it was starting to get dangerous in terms of losing track of data and deleting something. So now I have a place that can hold everything, and it’s also at a different location (usually) than my primary drives, so it’s safe against theft or other destruction. Of course I got an enclosure that’s very Mac-like and attractive. It has USB, FW400 & 800, and SATA. The HD is from Western Digital, which is my go-to brand in the superstitious art of deciding who to trust with your data (Fujitsu is the other brand I’ll buy if I have to, and in fact is what my Time Machine drive is). I only had a week to play with it and dump all my files onto it before leaving town, but so far it seems great.

For myself for Christmas, while ordering gifts for everybody else, I finally bought myself an account for Eve Online. I’ve gone through at least three 14-day trials trying to learn the damn game enough to where I could even decide if I liked it or not. I like the idea of a game that’s impossible to learn, but once you crack it open the possibilities become kind of limitless. The last trial I just finished convinced me that it was indeed fun, although there’s so much I have yet to learn, it’s really hard to tell long-term. The other thing it convinced me of is that it has really low bandwidth requirements, and at least in the small battles I’ve been involved in, can actually run in virtualization so well that you forget it’s not Boot Camp.

It seems like the perfect game for somebody on the road with questionable internet. If nothing else, you can log in for a few minutes a day to set your skills training, and still be progressing all day long. If I were home with a real computer, I don’t necessarily think I’d prefer it over Fallen Earth or Battleground Europe, but it seems to me like a game I can play without feeling like I’m fighting against my screen size, processor speed, lack of peripherals and bandwidth. Great FPS action is nice, but it requires all those things or else it totally sucks and you spend all your time pissed off that you got killed by lag or your connection dropped out just as you were supposed to do something really cool.

Also, despite my ranting about Parallels (I still think they’re greedy bastards), out of curiosity, when I started playing Eve pretty seriously a few weeks back, I tried it in Parallels 5 to compare it to Fusion. Perhaps not surprisingly, it ran a little better. I also really prefer Parallels’ UI, and the feature “modality” which shrinks your windows screen into a tiny semi-transparent floating window that you can keep an eye on and click things in. So having discovered a game I could actually play — and enjoy playing — without ever booting into Boot Camp, I decided that tipped the balance a bit, and I went back to using Parallels. After a few days of wonder at the miracle of virtualized gaming finally being playable, I took my $10 coupon that had been clogging my inbox, and bought Parallels 6 for $40, which honestly is at least close to reasonable. My beef with them is not that they charge for yearly upgrades, but that they charge more than $40. Out of principle I had refused to buy it at all, but honestly I installed Parallels 6 and it was so much better than Fusion that the experience of being able to fully play an MMO while not only booted into OS X, but with enough power left over to use OS X normally, with the MMO running in the background in full screen… well, it’s amazing. So I didn’t even do the whole trial of Parallels before I put the money down. If you’re interested, the upgrade price is $40 until the end of the year. And as I said in that link above, I needed to buy 8GB of RAM to make Parallels really run flawlessly, so that’s another requirement of getting this to work. It was a great investment, though.

Eve really wouldn’t have been worth buying except that it works so damn well virtually. It’s really low-maintenance tour gaming. So I guess you could say Parallels was the other part that made my Christmas gift possible, though I think of it more in terms of being a LORTmas gift. LORTmas is kind of like Chanukah, actually, in that it’s not celebrated only on one day. I celebrate LORTmas every Thursday at midnight for our two months’ time at the Guthrie, when that sweet, sweet LORT B salary drops into our bank accounts. As I interpret it, the point of LORTmas is that it’s a time when if you want something you don’t really have to think about it, you can just say, “Of course I can afford that, it’s LORTmas!” Which ends up being great fun because sometimes you say that about enough things that you lose track of how much extra money LORTmas actually creates, and you’re like, “Where did my rent money go?” But that’s all part of the LORTmas spirit.

EDIT: OK, here’s the ornament:

I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays! Back to work for us tomorrow!